A young Private was training for combat at the fields of Yale University in 1917 when he found a short-tailed, brindle coated American Pit bull terrier mix. Pvt. J. Robert Conroy adopted him and named him Stubby. Soon he was the mascot of the 102nd Infantry, part of the 26th "Yankee" Infantry Division. Private Conroy taught Stubby to salute by putting his right paw to his brow when he saw the other soldiers do so. Even though animals were not allowed in camp, he was given an exception for the morale of the men. Stubby was smuggled aboard the troopship taking the division to Europe. He was hidden in the coal bin until the ship was too far out to sea and was instantly liked by the crew of the SS Minnesota. When they arrived in France, Stubby was once again smuggled into the base and reportedly was discovered by Private Conroy's Commanding Officer, but was given a reprieve when he saluted. Obviously, this is one charming dog we are talking about here.
Stubby received special orders to accompany the 102nd Division to the front and they arrived on February 5, 1918. Stubby was soon to get his first combat wound though. He was exposed to a gas attack and taken to a field hospital to recover. After this his nose became sensitive to even trace amounts of poison gas. When the Division was next hit with chemical weapons in an early morning attack, Stubby recognized the gas and ran through the trench barking and biting at the soldiers, rousing them to sound the gas alarm, saving many lives. Stubby was later wounded again, this time receiving a large amount of shrapnel from a grenade in his chest and leg. He was again taken field hospital and transferred to a Red Cross Recovery Hospital. While recovering, he visited wounded soldiers, boosting their morale.
While on the front, Stubby's ears were also saving his soldiers. Due to much more acute hearing, he could detect the whine of incoming artillery fire before the soldiers and alerted them to duck for cover, saving many from wounds or death. He had a talent for locating wounded men lost in the trenches of the opposing armies; he would allegedly listen for the sound of English and then go to the location, barking until medics got there or even leading the lost soldiers back to friendly lines.
He was given the rank of Sergeant for capturing a German infiltrator attempting to make a map of American positions to call in an artillery bombardment. The soldier called to Stubby, but he put his ears back and began to bark. The German soldier tried to run away and Stubby bit him on the legs, causing the him to fall. He continued to attack the man until backup arrived in the form of two-legged American soldiers. For capturing an enemy spy, Stubby was promoted by the commander of the 102nd Infantry.
Thierry when the Allied Forces liberated the town, local women made him a chamois uniform coat so that he could display his medals. By the end of the war, Stubby had served for 18 months in 17 battles. There are unconfirmed reports that he also saved a young girl from being hit by a car while Corporal Conroy was on leave in Paris. When he finally returned home, Stubby became a quite a celebrity. He marched parades. He led parades. He met three Presidents! (Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge) I think that is pretty impressive, of course, he did go to Yale, so maybe there is a Skull and Crossbones connection in there somewhere. He died in Robert Conroy's home in 1926. His remains are part of the Smithsonian collection in The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit.
Stubby's "uniform" awards were:
- 3 Service Stripes
- Yankee Division Patch
- Republic of France Grande War Medal
- French Medal for the Battle of Verdun
- St. Michel Campaign Medal
- Chateau Thierry Campaign Medal
- Wound Stripe, replaced with Purple Heart later
- 1st Annual American Legion Convention Medal
- 6th Annual American Legion Convention
- New Haven World War I Veterans Medal
- Humane Education Society Gold Medal
Stubby was made a life member of the American Legion and the Red Cross. In 1921, he was presented a medal for service to his country- it was presented by General John "Blackjack" Pershing, the Commander of American Forces in WWI.